Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bocote Screwdriver & Bit Box

I recently built a Bocote-handled screwdriver and bit box and donated them to a Christmas charity auction.  Hardware was the Lee Valley Driver and Bits for Stainless Steel.  Several people requested a build-along, so I thought I would post this little tutorial.

Started with a nice block of Bocote that I've had for a while; it's been used to build a few plane totes and knobs.  Bocote is a typical oily exotic, but it turns well and is easy to shape.  The one fault that I have noticed is that it does tend to check a bit.  Could be a function of the very dry climate here in Alberta.  Most of the time they are little checks that are internal to the wood, and they don't cause a problem.  I cut the block shown below for the handle turning blank and another small block for the bit box.

I like to put grooves in my screwdriver handles, as this improves grip and also keeps them from rolling off the benchtop.  So the next step was to use the Lie-Nielsen bronze beading tool to put four grooves in the handle.

The little curlies look like dried-up orange peel.  I just use one of the standard blades that comes with the LN beading tool, but I may make another one that makes a larger, deeper groove.  Another modification that I am considering is starting out with a six-sided blank, as this would allow adding two more grooves.  

Here the blank is mounted in the lathe between centers.  I round the corners off with a roughing gouge and cut a shoulder on the left side with a parting tool.

Then I switch to a chuck with smooth spigot jaws, pick up a spindle gouge, and start shaping the blank.  I keep the tail stock in place to keep both ends well anchored until the blank is completed.  Then sand 80-120-180-220-320 grits.  The last two grits I hand-sand with the grain as well, to remove all turning marks.

Drill one or two little holes, usually 1/8" or smaller, for the wings of the screwdriver shank to fit into (if it has wings, this one did not).  This hole also allows epoxy to escape as the shank is driven home, allowing the shank to fully seat in the handle.  Here's the very accurate and repeatable method I use, see pics below.  Use a sharp awl to mark the hole locations (stunt blank in pic, as I forgot to take pics as I did the Bocote handle).  It also really helps a lot to have a sharp brad point bit. 

Then drill the hole with the Level-O-Matic (patent pending) device as shown.  You want this straight, as a little deviation can mess up the entire works.  Haven't messed up one yet, knock on wood.  

Drill the hole for the shank with a drill chuck with morse taper.  A steady rest would not be a bad idea here, but I don't have one.

Time to make the ferrule.  For my everyday users I often will use copper plumbing bullnose caps; they are cheap and easy.  The hole can be drilled to suit the size of the shank, which is convenient.  But for something upscale, brass is the ticket.  These brass fittings are from the plumbing department at the local borg, I forget what they are called.  But they are perfect for ferrules - nice and heavy-walled, come in lots of sizes, and minimal work to prep them.

Sand away the stamped lettering and polish to 600 or 1000 grit.

Grab the hacksaw and cut away the small end.  It will likely need a little more sanding and polishing after this operation, depending on how careful you are.

Dribble in a little epoxy (I use West Systems), and drive the shank home with a vise.  It's not a good idea to hit it with a hammer (DAMHIKT), as your new handle can end up in the trash in pieces.  

The bit box was dirt simple.  I cut a block of Bocote, squared it up on all sides with a hand plane, scraped it (sandpaper did not touch this box!), and sliced it in two parts using a bandsaw.  Roughly two/thirds on one side, one/third on the other.  Drilled twelve holes in both sides, taking care to align the holes in the top and bottom, and using a depth stop on the drill press to get consistent depths.  Four rare earth magnets were used for a closure, glued in place with epoxy.  I've tried using CA glue with these magnets, but I don't find that very reliable.  

Handle and box got a coat of danish oil, buffed, and waxed.  This was a very simple project that anyone can do.  For high-level results, all it takes is careful selection of wood and hardware, and attention to detail.  Makes a great gift and desk conversation piece as well, everyone loves playing with that little bit box.  


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Great design and execution. I like your bit holder idea - it's more kind to the eyes than any other that I've seen.


  2. Hi Chris
    Thanks for your comments. Sometimes the simplest things work out the best....

  3. Great tutorial...this is on my to-do list for sure now!

    Sean A

    1. Amazing post, really looking forward for the next one

      Driver Bits